The long white feathers on a Clydesdale's legs are one of the most easily recognizable features of this specific draft breed. Keeping the feathers clean and attractive can pose a bit of a grooming challenge, especially since they can be prone to skin conditions. Maintaining your Clydesdale's legs is an essential part of caring for him properly.
Brushing The Feathers
The feathering on your Clydesdale's legs can pick up all kinds of debris when your horse is being ridden or even just playing in the pasture. Dirt, sand, mud, rocks, thorns, briars and just about anything else that can get tangled in hair will get tangled in his hair. All of this stuff can quickly become uncomfortable for your horse, especially if any of it gets right next to his skin or traps moisture. Brushing out your Clydesdale's legs every day with a grooming brush will significantly reduce the tangling problem and help keep skin problems from developing. Make sure you can run your fingers through the feathers and nothing is stuck in the hairs.
Washing The Feathers
Even if your horse's legs are not covered in mud, white hair tends to turn yellowish brown fairly quickly when a horse is out in the pasture. Wash your Clydesdale's legs with a gentle whitening shampoo to keep the feathers clean and minimize staining. Brush the legs so that they are relatively clean and free of debris before you wash them. Be careful not to wash the legs too often because too much washing can dry out the skin and damage the feathers.
You can make grooming your Clydesdale's legs easier by paying attention to the condition of your pastures and stalls. A Clydesdale in a muddy, wet pasture is a recipe for a real mess. Try to keep your horse turned out in clean, dry areas where there is minimal debris that will get tangled in the feathers. Keep his stall clean and make sure the shavings are in good, dry condition.
Clydesdales are prone to skin conditions such as chronic progressive lymphedema. Horses with CPL are at higher risk of infection and may have swollen legs, sores and lesions on their skin as well as thick skin folds and swollen nodules. Failing to maintain your Clydesdale's legs may prevent you from noticing the early symptoms of skin conditions or make them more difficult for your veterinarian to treat. If you are unwilling or unable to maintain your horse's feathers properly on a daily basis, then you may want to have the horse professionally clipped or shaved to remove the feathers.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.